The FBI warned Twitter executives that the social media site could be susceptible to “hack-and-leak operations” that would involve actors obtaining information from high-profile figures and releasing it across the platform, according to the company’s former head of site integrity.
Months before the 2020 election and before a bombshell report from the New York Post releasing the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop, FBI officials warned Twitter officials of “hack-and-leak operations” associated with political campaigns, according to documents obtained by the outlet. Those warnings included rumors of operations specifically targeting Hunter Biden, as his father was the Democratic presidential nominee at the time.
“I was told in these meetings that the intelligence community expected that individuals associated with political campaigns would be subject to hacking attacks and that material obtained through those hacking attacks would likely be disseminated over social media platforms, including Twitter,” Twitter’s former head of site integrity Yoel Roth said in a Dec. 21, 2020, declaration to the Federal Election Commission, according to the outlet.
Shortly after the release of the Hunter Biden laptop story, Twitter officials worked to suppress the story by removing links to the article and posting warnings that it may be “unsafe,” according to the company’s internal communications that were released over the weekend as part of the so-called “Twitter Files.”
Twitter executives cited its “hacked materials” policy in its explanation for removing the story, and the decision was made at “the highest levels of the company, but without the knowledge of CEO Jack Dorsey.”
The FBI also issued similar warnings to Facebook ahead of the 2020 election, telling the platform to be “on high alert” for “Russian propaganda,” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Joe Rogan in August. That warning included language that “fit the pattern” of the Hunter Biden story, he said, prompting the social media platform to censor any related posts.
The warnings came during weekly meetings between FBI Supervisory Special Agent Elvis Chan and the social media platforms that he organized in the months leading up to the 2020 presidential election, the agent testified in a lawsuit that was filed on Tuesday against the Biden administration.
The lawsuit was filed by the Republican attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana, accusing the federal government of only censoring social media posts from “disfavored speakers [and] viewpoints.”
However, Matt Taibbi, a journalist who released the Twitter Files that detailed the platform’s decision-making behind suppressing the Hunter Biden story, found there was no evidence “of any government involvement” in censoring the story. Some conservative journalists who have written extensively about the story disputed those findings, lamenting the seemingly lackluster findings of the report.
Twitter CEO and billionaire Elon Musk announced on Saturday there would be a second information dump related to the Twitter Files and the company’s content moderation policies. It’s unclear whether Musk’s decision to release more files is in response to claims that he is withholding information, nor is it clear when the second information dump will take place.